F1 tyre supplier Pirelli has blamed debris on the Sakhir circuit for the two punctures suffered by Ferrari's Felipe Massa in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Brazilian was chasing a 14th successive point finish but saw his hopes of remaining in the top ten ended by two unscheduled pit-stops – on laps 17 and 36 – to replace shredded rear tyres. The delays dropped him deep into the pack, and Massa could only recover to 15th by the chequered flag.
Pirelli confirmed that it was investigating the problems immediately after the race, before reporting that debris left from one of the skirmishes early in the race could have been the cause.
“Looking at the tyres, the initial analysis is that the first one had a very small cut in the top of the tyre, while the second had a big cut in the sidewall, very aggressive,” motorsport director Paul Hembery was quoted by NBCSports
, “There were no reports of contact with Felipe, so we still need to talk with Ferrari about what happened.”
Contrary to Hembery's claim, Massa was involved in contact early in the race, when he touched Adrian Sutil's Force India on the opening lap. The incident left the Brazilian with a damaged front wing, however, and would not have impacted either set of tyres that eventually had to be changed ahead of schedule.
Despite concerns over tyre wear once again being a topic of conversation before the race, a wide variety of strategies were adopted in the heat of Bahrain, with some cars stopping twice and others stopping four times.
Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel used a three-stop strategy to win the race and extend his drivers' championship lead to ten points, starting from second on the grid on the medium tyre he used in qualifying before completing two stints on the hard compound.
Strategy also played a crucial role in the battle for the runner-up spots, with Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen stopping just twice and team-mate Romain Grosjean coming third after three stops. Grosjean passed Force India's Paul di Resta, who was also on a two-stop strategy, in the closing stages to ensure that the 2013 Bahrain podium was identical to the line-up after last year's race.